Blog User acquisition and re-engagement strategies for subscription apps

User acquisition and re-engagement strategies for subscription apps

In our latest guest post, Marta Gaspar, Team Lead Global Content & Digital Marketing at programmatic mobile marketing platform RevX, shares her top user acquisition (UA) and re-engagement strategies that drive growth for mobile subscription-based apps.

Apps are increasingly turning to subscription models as a means of monetization - but to develop into a successful business model, subscriptions must be supported by a clearly defined mobile growth strategy.

Among the most frequently-downloaded types of subscription apps, we find streaming apps (30.7%), Gaming (9%), and News apps (4%). While subscription models are common across almost all verticals, the nature of subscription models vary considerably and different models call for different strategies.

Common subscription models include:

  • Pay-to-use models such as Netflix or Masterclass
  • Pay-to-upgrade or ‘freemium’ such as Evernote or Duolingo
  • Pay-to-pay-less subscription types that aim to retain users by offering savings if subscribed, such as Amazon shopping, Deliveroo and Uber.

Regardless of the type of subscription an app offers, there's a shared goal across all mobile businesses: grow the user base and scale revenue sustainably. To start off, let’s look at methods to achieve this via programmatic user acquisition and re-engagement.

Growing a subscription app with programmatic advertising

Apps with subscription models face similar challenges to other apps, namely user churn. Retention rates for subscription apps average below 50%, emphasizing the need to keep users engaged and in-app.

One of the preeminent needs for a freemium subscription app is to build a strong and devoted user base early enough. If this user base is invested in the app from day one, they can more easily be led to then convert/subscribe. With a community of subscribed users, it will be easier to attract more users via a network effect later.

A successful ad experience depends on the context used to build it, and building a winning user acquisition campaign starts by understanding how users interact with apps and how. Deep learning algorithms allow app businesses to reach high-value users with relevant messaging at the right time and with optimal frequency.

From acquisition to activation

After acquiring those sought-after users, the focus should lie in the app's activation flow and defining which user segments to target. Think about the state of mind the user is when they reach your paywall, and use this to build your campaigns - addressing users’ possible pain points and the benefits your subscription offers.

Sustaining your acquisition strategy with retargeting

Advertising shouldn't just focus on driving downloads - it also has a significant role in re-engagement. After onboarding, retarget new installers to show the advantages of a subscription, remind them of benefits and updates, and communicate any other perks and bonuses.

Depending on how the activation flow is built for your subscription app, consider the following approaches:

  • If the activation happens in the beginning, meaning that the subscription sign-up offer is a mandatory step after the download, you’ll want to highlight the details and benefits of subscribing within UA creatives and as fallback in retargeting based on an improved offer.
  • If your app's subscription sign-up becomes mandatory after a free trial period, programmatic ad campaigns should communicate the subscription value proposition to ensure continuation of the paid content usage.
  • If your app's flow allows a paid activation option on the go, common to freemium models, the subscription offer would be pushed only after the user has experienced the app's core features or spent some time exploring it. In this case, your campaigns should focus on presenting the paid-for features and benefits that will enhance the user's existing app experience. Your targeted audience should be users who are actively engaged with your app.

Conveying the right message

Tailoring the message for each user segment is vital. Keep the following ideas in mind when building your re-engagement campaigns:

  • Highlight the goal or action you want your user to take. This is critical, particularly in the initial stage of the user journey, post the app-install.
  • Offer a free trial to selected segments if you have a "pay to use" subscription model.
  • List your value propositions and the benefits you offer to subscribers. Highlight additional features, devices supported, subscription packages offered, or unlimited usage.
  • It pays off for freemium apps to highlight a comparison of all plans available (free vs. paid, monthly vs. annual) to show the amount users can potentially save by subscribing.
  • Offer extra features or discounts in exchange for new user referrals.
  • Show social proof of your app's success, such as ratings and reviews from existing happy users.
  • List accolades and awards. You can pique users' interest by showing, for example, that your app was featured or is an "Editor's choice" on the app stores.

Know your user journey

Knowing and crafting a user journey offers tremendous insights that can be used to improve your advertising strategy. Specifically, it allows for spotting churn moments. Identifying the moments when user engagement drops provides important clues on how to improve your user journey and how to tailor ad messaging to prevent these drops.

Which events to track varies depending on how your users engage with your subscription model and your overall objectives. These events can include trial activations, conversions after trial, subscription renewals, subscription after specific offers or actions.

Adjust's Subscription Tracking allows app marketers to fuel their strategy with data that can be used to create these highly targeted and seasonal campaigns.

Optimizing for long term growth

Like any other marketing channel, programmatic relies on regular testing and improvement and it might seem attractive to over-optimize campaigns for revenue. Although this approach can bring short term gains, it doesn't lead to long term scale if your efforts aren't coupled with a retention and activation strategy. Therefore, start by collecting data, analyzing user segments, and making sense of their behavior throughout the entire app journey. This is the starting point to build a strategy catered to long term and incremental results for your subscription app.

To learn more about programmatic marketing and how to leverage mobile advertising on certified apps, take a look at RevX’s information and resources. For more on user acquisition, you can read our 'best practices’ blog here, or find out all about paid acquistion in our guide, available for download here.

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